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Barbara Carroll: How Long Has This Been Going On?

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As is the case with any elderly musician still playing jazz actively, we tend to automatically add the phrase “for a **-year-old” to any discussion of that artist’s present abilities. The qualifier is intended to suggest that the artist, because nature takes its course on our minds and bodies, might be working with diminished chops, that the hands can no longer deliver what they once could or that the mind is no longer as sharp. We the listener may even condescendingly applaud the artist, knowing damn well that he or she really doesn’t possess the goods anymore.

With pianist Barbara Carroll the qualifier simply isn’t necessary. Yes, she is 86, with 65 years of professional experience, going back to a time when women had to work doubly hard to prove they could play jazz at all. But on How Long Has This Been Going On? , recorded live at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in New York in 2010, Carroll’s ideas flow quickly, her execution is unblemished, her touch is alternately nimble and sensitive and her leadership is assured.

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